Land Agency: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
Roundtrip: 1.0 mile
Elevation gain: None
Access: From Exit 212 on I-5, travel west 5.0 miles to Stanwood. Continue west through town another mile turning left (use caution on this turn) onto Eide Road just after crossing Mark Clark Bridge. Proceed south on Eide Road for one mile south to trailhead at Smith Farm.
Good to know: bird-watching; historic; dog-friendly,
This is a short and easy hike on a small island wedged between Camano Island and the mainland near Skagit and Port Susan Bays. In the spring of 1876 a handful of Scandinavian immigrants diked several hundred acres of the Stillaguamish River Delta forming this island. The N.P. Leque family then homesteaded on the island farming on it until the 1940s. Farming activity continued on Leque Island until 1994 while the WDFW began acquiring land on the island in the 1970s. Today nearly the entire island is owned by the WDFW and is managed as part of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
Providing important habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species, the 325-acre island is also a popular spot for waterfowl hunting and bird watching. Contract farming is carried out to plant cereal grains as a food source for wintering waterfowl. Leque Island like most of the Skagit and Stillaguamish Deltas is a superb place for watching wintering snow geese. Tens of thousands of them arrive here from Siberia’s Wrangel Island each fall. One of Washington’s spectacular annual animal events, the geese can be breathtaking to watch; especially when a cloud of them rises above the flats. With the snow geese hunting season over in late January, February is an excellent time to watch these birds before they begin returning to the remote island in the Chukchi Sea. Nearby Stanwood holds its annual Port Susan Snow Goose Festival in late February too. Consider combing a visit to the island with a trip to the festival.
From the trailhead head south on an old farm track-turned trail along a field of squawking birds and alongside a dike preventing that field from reverting back to wetlands. The dikes have been periodically failing over the years, so come prepared with good boots in case the trail is inundated. WDFW is currently accessing options to begin removing some of the dikes. This has caused some controversy as was the case on nearby Fir Island and there is a good chance that hiking options here will change in the future. So be sure to visit soon. At about .4 mile turn left following a path to the dike. Here wander a bit taking in exceptional views of the Stillaguamish Delta with Mount Baker, Three Fingers, Whitehorse Mountain, and Mount Pilchuck hovering above.
Stay for awhile admiring the snow geese and trying to identify the numerous other birds that frolic and dabble along the shore and in the grassy interior of the island. Bald eagles are common here and snowy owls are occasionally spotted during the winter months.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Leque Island visit www.snohomish.org
For more information on area hiking trails consult my Day Hiking North Cascades and Day Hiking Central Cascades books.